Marketing healthy lifestyle info in public housing

November 29, 2000

CLEVELAND -- Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine, the Health Museum of Cleveland, and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority are collaborating on a program that employs corporate marketing strategies to deliver healthy lifestyle information to public housing residents.

Their efforts were boosted recently with a $420,000 grant to the health museum from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The grant will go toward the $1.25 million program, called Health CMHA 2000, aimed to encourage public housing residents to adopt healthier lifestyles and use available health services. RWJF describes the project as a potential national model.

The program was modeled after a highly successful international corporate health promotion program created by Patricia T. Horvath, associate executive director of the Health Museum of Cleveland. The sponsoring organizations developed a collaborative response to the need to instill healthier living practices for a target population that has generally not embraced healthy lifestyle changes. The program combines such activities as exercise, healthy cooking, and stress management with a corporate marketing strategy. Such a program has never before been available to residents of public housing.

Healthy CHMA will be presented to all 15,600 CHMA residents with special emphasis on nine complexes in the city's poorest east side neighborhoods. Of the 7,600 residents in the targeted areas, 98.9 percent are African-American, and the average per capita income is $3,833 per year.

"Healthy CMHA 2000 will raise resident awareness and interest in using the many health-related services already available agency-wide," said CMHA Executive Director Tern Hamilton Brown. "Through this partnership, we are working to encourage our residents to succeed in adopting permanent healthy lifestyles."

The program was one of only 21 nationwide projects of this kind to receive support from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation this year. More than 300 applications for grants were reviewed by the foundation, which helps bring national attention to innovative ideas and approaches to health care that have been developed in local communities. Consequently, the Healthy CMHA 2000 program may serve as a potential national model for future projects of this type.

The program identifies four high-risk groups for intensive focus -- youths, males, women of child-bearing age, and seniors. The pilot study revealed that 25 percent of the participants had high blood pressure, 65 percent were smokers, and more than 50 percent were overweight. To combat the most common problems, the program will address issues like exercise, balanced nutrition, stress management, and the cessation of smoking.

Horvath said she was encouraged with how well the 1999 pilot program was received. "The residents in these communities are enthusiastic about Healthy CMHA 2000. They are attending meetings and offering great suggestions. We're gaining momentum," she said.

"This pioneering partnership allows the CWRU School of Medicine to address the very important health concerns of all populations," said Susan Wentz, assistant professor of family medicine and the medical school's principal investigator on the project.

"The medical school will involve medical experts, students, programs, and resources with the Healthy CMHA 2000 program and serve as the program's medical advocate," Wentz added.

Wentz, who has directed an urban health education program at the medical school for 10 years, feels the program provides a significant opportunity for increased access to health services for CMHA residents.

The program received its lead local grant from the Cleveland Foundation. The John P. Murphy Foundation, the Abington Foundation, and the Raymond J. Wean Foundation also awarded grants for the project.

Full funding was granted for the effort after a one-year pilot study proved successful in motivating more than100 CMHA residents to establish healthier lifestyles through exercise, nutrition and stress management programs.

The Cleveland Foundation presented the project to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Healthy CMHA 2000 is an outstanding partnership," said Bob Eckardt, vice president for programs at the Cleveland Foundation said. "This project is extraordinary because it coordinates the efforts of these organizations and other health-related services in public housing neighborhoods. CMHA residents are the big winners."

Case Western Reserve University

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